Celebrate National Poetry Month : The 2013 Albany WordFest!

 

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In celebration of National Poetry Month, Albany Poets is proud to present the 2013 Albany Word Fest featuring the poetry and spoken word of upstate New York.  This year’s event will take place on Sunday, April 14 – Saturday, April 20, 2013.

 

“What a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month right here in Albany. With a full week of poetry and spoken word, there is something for everyone.” Thom Francis, Albany Poets President, said, “Whether you would like to take in a featured performance, celebrate the launch of a new, local literary journal, attend a regional poetry slam, or be part of one of the largest annual open mics in the area, the Albany Word Fest is the place for you.”

 

Avery Stempel, Albany Poets board member, adds, “Word Fest is a celebration of spoken word spanning a full week of events that incorporate the diverse forms of expression ranging from impromptu skits to rehearsed and choreographed slams.  Poets, philosophers, performers: all are welcome in this growing community of Albany writers.  I am excited to be a part of the team coordinating the festivities this year!”

The week will kick-off with the launch of Albany Poets’ brand new literary journal, Up The River. Editors Jill Crammond and Keith Spencer have been culling through hundreds of submissions and will debut their selections for the first issue on Sunday, April 14 at McGeary’s. The evening will also feature performances by some of the poets published.

On Monday, April 15 we head to the UAG Gallery on Lark Street for a night of poetry and spoken word from Poets Against Fracking featuring Band of Bards, a community of Binghamton area writers, artists, and activists who have turned their talents toward helping to preserve their community against the threat of hydraulic fracture gas drilling in New York State and beyond.

Also on Monday night, Jill Crammond will be hosting an open mic for students in grades 5 – 12 at the Bethlehem Children’s School in Slingerlands. This will be a great opportunity for young poets and writers to share their work with others.

On Tuesday, April 16 the festival continues with the Nitty Gritty Slam at Valentines. For the Word Fest edition of NGS, Mojavi and Thom Francis will present the first ever Haiku Battle. This long awaited event will finally make its Albany debut on the Nitty Gritty stage.

For Wednesday night, April 17, the Word Fest heads over to The Linda – WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio on Central Ave for a screening of the film Louder Than A Bomb, “a film about passion, competition, teamwork, and trust. It’s about the joy of being young, and the pain of growing up. It’s about speaking out, making noise, and finding your voice. It also just happens to be about poetry.”

Thursday, the poetry comes back to the Social Justice Center with the Third Thursday Poetry Night hosted by Dan Wilcox. This monthly poetry series welcomes poets to step up to the mic and share their work along with featured performers from the College of Saint Rose.

Friday night features two poetry events with the annual Word Fest Open Mic taking place at the UAG Gallery on Lark Street while UGT will be happening at The Linda on Central Ave.

This year Albany Poets is going back to a familiar place for the Word Fest Open Mic. We are returning to the UAG Gallery on Lark Street for this annual Word Fest tradition. The UAG has hosted the Open Mic five times in the past (2006 – 2010) and it is great to be back home for the 2013 Word Fest.

Poets who wish to participate in the open mic can sign up online by going to the signup pageuntil Sunday, April 14.  Performers will also have a limited opportunity to sign up at the event itself.  Each poet will have 10 minutes to share their work. The open mic is open to all poets and spoken word artists with no style or content restrictions.

Meanwhile, right up Central Avenue, at The Linda, Urban Guerilla Theatre will be presenting the second Skit Happens show. UGT President Mojavi explains, “ ‘Skit Happens, Too’ is an eclectic blend of poetry, comedy and skits. UGT is dedicated to bringing you funny, incredible performances and even crazier skits. We continue to bring you the best in poetry, comedy and performance as part of the 2013 Albany Word Fest.”

Finally on Saturday, April 20, the Word Fest comes to an end with the first ever Word Fest Invitational Slam at Valentine’s starting at 6:00pm. Albany Poets, Frequency North, and Urban Guerilla Theatre are proud to welcome six teams from all over the Northeast to compete in this event. Admission for this event at Valentine’s is $10.00 in advance / $12.00 at the door. This event is 18+ (21+ to drink) with a picture ID required. Tickets will be available online beginning on March 14.

Additionally, all throughout the week, Albany Poets will be publishing local poetry on their website as part of the Word Fest Online Open Mic. Poets who wish to participate are encouraged to send their poems to albanypoets+submissions@gmail.com with “Online Open Mic” in the subject line, starting Sunday, April 7.

The 2013 Albany Word Fest is sponsored by Albany PoetsHudson Valley Writers GuildFrequency NorthUrban Guerrilla TheatreValentinesMcGeary’s,Upstate Artists Guild, and the very generous donations of supporters of the arts in upstate New York including Matt GallettaDan WilcoxHoward KoganKenneth Salzmann, and Bob Sharkey.

Latest Word Fest News

2013 Albany Word Fest – The Word Fest Kick Off Party and Launch of Up The River on Sunday, April 14
April 3, 2013 2:36:40 PM EDT

Getting Closer… Two Weeks Until the 2013 Albany Word Fest
April 2, 2013 10:44:56 AM EDT

2013 Albany Word Fest – Poets Against Fracking featuring Band of Bards on Monday, April 15
March 29, 2013 9:55:17 AM EDT

2013 Albany Word Fest News – New Events, New Features, and How You Can Help
March 14, 2013 10:26:52 AM EDT

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The Albany Word Fest is © 2013 Albany Poets. All Rights Reserved.

 

Easter, 1916

 Easter Card

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our wingèd horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone’s in the midst of all.
Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse—
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

_____________

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

FOOTNOTES: September 25, 1916

 

Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)

THE NEW VERSE MOVEMENT HAS ARRIVED

THE NEW VERSE MOVEMENT HAS ARRIVED

 

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THE “NEW VERSE MOVEMENT” HAS ARRIVED.

THE SCHOOL OF NIGHT
OPEN MIC FOR POETS, POETRY
& WRITERS RETURNS TO DOWNTOWN
ALBANY, NY ON THURSDAY, APRIL 11TH

The Pearl Street Pub & Dirty Martini Lounge In Albany

NO RULES. NO SCORES. NO AGENDAS.

JUST YOUR WORDS ARE REQUIRED.

7:30pm Sign Up * 8pm Start

 www.newversemovement.com

 

Death to the Death of Poetry

 

 By Donald Hall 

Some days, when you read the newspaper, it seems clear that the United States is a country devoted to poetry. You can delude yourself reading the sports pages. After finding two references to “poetry in motion,” apropos of figure skating and the Kentucky Derby, you read that a shortstop is the poet of his position and that sailboats raced under blue skies that were sheer poetry. On the funny pages, Zippy praises Zerbina’s outfit: “You’re a poem in polyester.” A funeral director, in an advertisement, muses on the necessity for poetry in our daily lives. It’s hard to figure out just what he’s talking about, but it becomes clear that this poetry has nothing to do with poems. It sounds more like taking naps.

Poetry, then, appears to be:

  1. a vacuous synonym for excellence or unconsciousness. What else is common to the public perception of poetry?
  2. It is universally agreed that no one reads it.
  3. It is universally agreed that the nonreading of poetry is (a) contemporary and (b) progressive. From (a) it follows that sometime back (a wandering date, like “olden times” for a six-year-old) our ancestors read poems, and poets were rich and famous. From (b) it follows that every year fewer people read poems (or buy books or go to poetry readings) than the year before.
    Other pieces of common knowledge:
  4. Only poets read poetry.
  5. Poets themselves are to blame because “poetry has lost its audience.”
  6. Everybody today knows that poetry is “useless and completely out of date”—as Flaubert put it in Bouvard and Pécuchet a century ago.

For expansion on and repetition of these well-known facts, look in volumes of Time magazine, in Edmund Wilson’s “Is Verse a Dying Technique?,” in current newspapers everywhere, in interviews with publishers, in book reviews by poets, and in the August 1988 issue of Commentary, where the essayist Joseph Epstein assembled every cliché about poetry, common for two centuries, under the title “Who Killed Poetry?”

Time, which reported The Waste Land as a hoax in 1922, canonized T. S. Eliot in a 1950 cover story. Certainly Time’s writers and editors altered over thirty years, but they also stayed the same: always the Giants grow old and die, leaving the Pygmies behind. After the age of Eliot, FrostStevensMoore, and Williams, the wee survivors were LowellBerrymanJarrell, and Bishop. When the survivors died, younger elegiac journalists revealed that the dead Pygmies had been Giants all along—and now the young poets were dwarfs. Doubtless obituaries lauding Allen Ginsberg are already written; does anyone remember Life on the Beat Generation, thirty years ago?

“Is Verse a Dying Technique?” Edmund Wilson answered yes in 1928. It is not one of the maestro’s better essays. Wilson’s long view makes the point that doctors and physicists no longer use poetry when they write about medicine and the universe. Yes, Lucretius is dead. And yes, Coleridge had a notion of poetry rather different from Horace’s. But Wilson also announced in 1928 that poetry had collapsed because “since the SandburgPound generation, a new development in verse has taken place. The sharpness and the energy disappear; the beat gives way to a demoralized weariness.” (He speaks, of course, in the heyday of Moore and Williams, Frost, H. D., Stevens, and Eliot; reprinting the essay in 1948, he added a paragraph nervously acknowledging Auden, whom he had put down twenty years before.) He goes on, amazingly, to explain the problem’s source: “The trouble is that no verse technique is more obsolete today than blank verse. The old iambic pentameters have no longer any relation whatever to the tempo and language of our lives. Yeats was the last who could write them.”

But Yeats wrote little blank verse of interest, bar “The Second Coming.” As it happens, two Americans of Wilson’s time wrote superb blank verse. (Really I should say three, because E. A. Robinson flourished in 1928. But his annual blank verse narratives were not so brilliant as his earlier work; and of course he antedated “the Sandburg-Pound generation.”) Robert Frost, starting from Wordsworth, made an idiomatic American blank verse, especially in his dramatic monologues, which is possibly the best modern example of that metric; and Wallace Stevens, starting from Tennyson, made blank verse as gorgeous as “Tithonus.” Read Frost’s “Home Burial” and Stevens’s “Sunday Morning” and then tell me that blank verse was obsolete in 1928.

Poetry was never Wilson’s strong suit. It is worthwhile to remember that Wilson found Edna St. Vincent Millay the great poet of her age—better than Robert Frost, Marianne Moore, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams. In a late self-interview by Wilson in the New Yorker, he revealed that among contemporary poets only Robert Lowell was worth reading. It saves a lot of time, not needing to check out Elizabeth Bishop, John AshberyGalway KinnellLouis SimpsonAdrienne RichSylvia PlathRobert Bly, John Berryman…

Sixty years after Edmund Wilson told us that verse was dying, Joseph Epstein in Commentary revealed that it was murdered. Of course, Epstein’s golden age—Stevens, Frost, Williams—is Wilson’s era of “demoralized weariness.” Everything changes and everything stays the same. Poetry was always in good shape twenty or thirty years ago; now it has always gone to hell. I have heard this lamentation for forty years, not only from distinguished critics and essayists but from professors and journalists who enjoy viewing our culture with alarm. Repetition of a formula, under changed circumstances and with different particulars, does not make formulaic complaint invalid; but surely it suggests that the formula represents something besides what it repeatedly affirms.

In asking “Who Killed Poetry?” Joseph Epstein begins by insisting that he does not dislike it. “I was taught that poetry was itself an exalted thing.” He admits his “quasi-religious language” and asserts that “it was during the 1950s that poetry last had this religious aura.” Did Epstein go to school “during the 1950s”? If he attended poetry readings in 1989 with unblinkered eyes, he would watch twenty-year-olds undergoing quasi-religious emotions—one of whom, almost certainly, will write an essay in the 2020s telling the world that poetry is moldering in its grave.

Worship is not love. People who at the age of fifty deplore the death of poetry are the same people who in their twenties were “taught to exalt it.” The middle-aged poetry detractor is the student who hyperventilated at poetry readings thirty years earlier—during Wilson’s “Pound-Sandburg era” or Epstein’s aura-era of “T. S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams.” After college many English majors stop reading contemporary poetry. Why not? They become involved in journalism or scholarship, essay writing or editing, brokerage or social work; they backslide from the undergraduate Church of Poetry. Years later, glancing belatedly at the poetic scene, they tell us that poetry is dead. They left poetry; therefore they blame poetry for leaving them. Really, they lament their own aging. Don’t we all? But some of us do not blame the current poets.

Epstein localizes his attack on two poets, unnamed but ethnically specified: “One of the two was a Hawaiian of Japanese ancestry, the other was middle-class Jewish.” (They were Garrett Hongo and Edward Hirsch, who testified on behalf of American poetry to the National Council of the Arts, where Joseph Epstein as a Councillor regularly assured his colleagues that contemporary American writing was dreck.) Epstein speaks disparagingly of these “Japanese” and “Jewish” poets, in his ironic mosquito whine, and calls their poems “heavily preening, and not distinguished enough in language or subtlety of thought to be memorable.”

Such disparagement is pure blurbtalk. He does not quote a line by either poet he dismisses. As with the aging Edmund Wilson, Epstein saves time by ignoring particulars of the art he disparages.

Dubious elegies on the death of poetry shouldn’t need answers. A frequently reported lie, however, can turn into fact. In his essay, Joseph Epstein tells us that “last year the Los Angeles Times announced it would no longer review books of poems.” In the Washington Post, Jonathan Yardley referred to the same event, which never happened, and applauded what never happened except in his own negligent error.

The editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review announced that his paper would review fewer books; instead, the Review would print a whole poem in a box every week, with a note on the poet. In the years since instituting this policy, LATBR has continued to review poetry—more than the New York Times Book Review has done—and in addition has printed an ongoing anthology of contemporary American verse. The Los Angeles Times probably pays more attention to poetry than any other newspaper in the country.

Yet when the LAT announced its new policy, poets picketed the paper. Poets love to parade as victims; we love the romance of alienation and insult.

More than a thousand poetry books appear in this country each year. More people write poetry in this country—publish it, hear it, and presumably read it—than ever before. Let us quickly and loudly proclaim that no poet sells like Stephen King, that poetry is not as popular as professional wrestling, and that fewer people attend poetry readings in the United States than in Russia. Snore, snore. More people read poetry now in the United States than ever did before.

When I was in school in the 1940s, there were few poetry readings; only Frost did many. If we consult biographies of Stevens and Williams, we understand that for them a poetry reading was an unusual event. In these decades, the magazine Poetry printed on its back cover Walt Whitman’s claim that “to have great poets there must be great audiences too” but it seemed an idle notion at the time. Then readings picked up in the late 1950s, avalanched in the 1960s, and continue unabated in the 1990s.

Readings sell books, When trade publishers in 1950 issued a third book by a prominent poet, they printed hardbound copies, possibly a thousand. If the edition sold out in three or four years, everybody was happy. The same trade publisher in 1989 would likely print the same poet in an edition of five thousand, hard and soft—and the book would stand a good chance of being reprinted, at least in paper. Recently, a dozen or more American poets have sold at least some of their books by the tens of thousands: Adrienne Rich, Robert Bly, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Galway Kinnell, Robert CreeleyGary SnyderDenise Levertov,Carolyn Forché; doubtless others. Last I knew, Galway Kinnell approached fifty thousand—over the years—with Book of Nightmares.

It is not only the sales of books that one can adduce to support the notion that poetry’s audience has grown tenfold in the last thirty years. If poetry readings provide the largest new audience, there are also more poetry magazines, and those magazines sell more copies. In 1955 no one would have believed you if you had suggested that two or three decades hence the United States would support a bimonthly poetry tabloid with a circulation of twenty thousand available on newsstands coast to coast. Everybody complains about the American Poetry Review; nobody acknowledges how remarkable it is that it exists.

A few years back, a journal of the publishing industry printed a list of all-time trade paperback best-sellers, beginning with The Joy of Sex, which sold millions, on down to books that had sold two hundred fifty thousand. It happened that I read the chart shortly after learning that Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Coney Island of the Mind, a trade paperback, had sold more than a million copies. Because the book was poetry, the journal understood that its sales did not count.

When I make these points, I encounter fierce resistance. No one wants to believe me. If ever I convince people that these numbers are correct, they come up with excuses: Bly sells because he’s a showman; Ginsberg is notorious; Rich sells because of feminist politics. People come up with excuses for these numbers because the notion of poetry’s disfavor is important—to poetry’s detractors and to its supporters. Why does almost everyone connected with poetry claim that poetry’s audience has diminished? Doubtless the pursuit of failure and humiliation is part of it. There is also a source that is lovable if unobservant: Some of us love poetry so dearly that its absence from everybody’s life seems an outrage. Our parents don’t read James Merrill! Therefore, exaggerating out of foiled passion, we claim that “nobody reads poetry.”

When I contradict such notions, at first I insist merely on numbers. If everybody artistic loathes statistics, everybody artistic still tells us that “nobody reads poetry,” which is a numerical notion—and untrue. Of course, the numbers I recite have nothing whatsoever to do with the quality or spirit of the poetry sold or read aloud. I include no Rod McKuen in my figures; I include only poetry that intends artistic excellence. My numbers counter only numbers—and not assertions of value and its lack.

But I need as well, and separately, to insist: I believe in the quality of the best contemporary poetry; I believe that the best American poetry of our day makes a considerable literature. American Poetry after Lowell—an anthology of four hundred pages limited, say, to women and men born from the 1920s through the 1940s—would collect a large body of diverse, intelligent, beautiful, moving work that should endure. Mind you, it would limit itself to one-hundredth of one percent of the poems published. If you write about Poetry Now, you must acknowledge that most poetry is terrible—that most poetry of any moment is terrible. When, at any historical moment, you write an article claiming that poetry is now in terrible shape, you are always right. Therefore, you are always fatuous.

Our trouble is not with poetry but with the public perception of poetry. Although we have more poetry today, we have less poetry reviewing in national journals. Both Harper’s magazine and the Atlantic have abandoned quarterly surveys of poetry. The New York Times Book Review never showed much interest, but as poetry has increased in popularity, the Times has diminished its attention. The New York Review of Books, always more political than poetical, gives poetry less space every year. The greatest falling-off is at the New Yorker. The New Yorker once regularly published Louise Bogan’s essays on “Verse.” Lately, when the magazine touches on poetry, Helen Vendler is more inclined to write about a translation or about a poet safely dead. In the past, men and women like Conrad Aiken, Malcolm Cowley, and Louise Bogan practiced literary journalism to make a living. Their successors now meet classes MWF. People with tenure don’t need to write book reviews.

Their absence is poetry’s loss, and the poetry reader’s—for we need a cadre of reviewers to sift through the great volume of material. The weight of numbers discourages readers from trying to keep up. More poetry than ever: How do we discriminate? How do we find or identify beautiful new work? When there are sufficient reviewers, who occupy continual soap-boxes and promote developing standards, they provide sensors to report from the confusing plentitude of the field.

Beside the weight of numbers, another perennial source of confusion is partisanship. When I was in my twenties and writing iambic stanzas, Allen Ginsberg’s Howl was a living reproach. For a while I denigrated Allen: “If he’s right, I must be wrong.” Such an either/or is silly and commonplace: restrictions are impoverishments. In the 1920s one was not allowed to admire both T. S. Eliot and Thomas Hardy; it was difficult for intellectuals who admired Wallace Stevens and his bric-a-brac to find houseroom for Robert Frost and his subjects. Looking back at the long heyday of modern poetry, removed by time from partisanship, we can admire the era’s virtuosity, the various excellences of these disparate characters born in the 1870s and 1880s, who knew each other and wrote as if they didn’t. What foursome could be more dissimilar than Moore, Williams, Stevens, and Frost? Maybe the answer is: some foursome right now.

There are a thousand ways to love a poem. The best poets make up new ways, and the new ways mostly take getting used to. The poetry reading helps toward understanding (which explains how poetry thrives without book reviewing) because the poet’s voice and gesture provide entrance to the poetry: a way in, a hand at the elbow. The poetry reading helps—but as a substitute for reviewing it is inefficient. And sometimes it is hard to know whether we cherish the poem or its performance.

At least there are many poets, many readings—and there is an audience. For someone like me, born in the 1920s, which produced great poetry and neglected to read it—Knopf remaindered Wallace Stevens—our poetic moment is inspiriting. As I grew up, from the 1930s to the 1950s, poets seldom read aloud and felt lucky to sell a thousand copies. In the 1990s the American climate for poetry is infinitely more generous. In the mail, in the rows of listeners, even in the store down the road, I find generous response. I find it in magazines and in rows of listeners in Pocatello and Akron, in Florence, South Carolina, and in Quartz Mountain, Oklahoma. I find it in books published and in extraordinary sales for many books.

While most readers and poets agree that “nobody reads poetry”—and we warm ourselves by the gregarious fires of our solitary art—maybe a multitude of nobodies assembles the great audience Whitman looked for.

This essay comes from Harper’s magazine, 1989. Much of it appears in the Introduction to Best American Poetry 1989. Reprinted here from Death to the Death of Poetry by Donald Hall, published by University of Michigan Press. Copyright © 1994 by Donald Hall. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Time of The Seasons And The Constellations : T.S. Eliot Dancing at the Still Point; The Dharma and T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets

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... I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love

For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

 

IN THIS PAPER I want to suggest a reading of a number of passages from T. S. Eliot’s long poem, the Four Quartets, in the light of the Dharma, or, to be more accurate, explore the Dharma as expressed by passages within the poem.  This raises the immediate question – why not approach the Dharma directly, rather than through the writings of a non-Buddhist writer?  The answer is twofold; firstly, as great poetry, as a sublime work of art, reading and reflecting on it can in itself have a positive and uplifting effect.  It has a power and beauty that prose can rarely achieve, and hence can at times manage to convey truths to our heart more immediately than abstract philosophy.  And secondly because the poem is part of our Western cultural heritage. Being part of our culture it is perhaps more immediate and accessible than traditional Buddhism can appear, coming from a time and place very different from our own.

The Four Quartets is the last major work of T. S. Eliot, written in his late forties and early fifties.  Most scholars, and Eliot himself, consider the long poem the culmination and crowning achievement of his life’s work.  The first quartet, ‘Burnt Norton’, was written in 1936 as a separate work.  The other three – East Coker, The Dry Salvages, and Little Gidding – were written between 1940 and 1942.  It seems like Eliot’s response to the Second World War raging around him was to want to write more personally, to attempt to express his deepest convictions and intuitions.  Hence he abandoned writing plays and returned to the immediacy of poetry, to expand on the poignant themes he introduced in Burnt Norton.

In this paper I will draw out a few of the themes covered in the poem, although that unfortunately leaves many others unexplored.  If however this article prompts its audience to an appreciative (re) reading of the great poem – an ambitious attempt to bring ‘to expression in language what language doesn’t readily lend itself to’ – then it will have more than served its purpose.

A PLACE OF DISAFFECTION

THE FIRST TOPIC that Eliot communicates in the poem will be a familiar one to anyone who knows anything about Buddhism; an exhortation to live in the present moment, rather than the shadow-lands of past and future, what Eliot calls ‘time before and time after’.  Eliot contrasts what he calls the ‘waste sad time/stretching before and after’ with the creative possibilities, beauty and meaning that are accessible to us if we inhabit the present moment.  He graphically evokes the semi-conscious twilight state of being lost in memories of the past, or fantasies about an unreal future.

Here is a place of disaffection

Time before and Time after

In a dim light…

…Only a flicker

Over the strained time-ridden faces

Distracted from distraction by distraction

Filled with fancies and empty of meaning

Tumid apathy with no concentration

Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind

That blows before and after time,

Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs

Time before and time after.

This, unfortunately, is an experience probably all too familiar to meditators, a state without mindfulness or awareness, with the meditator so caught up in distractions he has no vantage point to even realise he is distracted. The mind is without direction or meaning, blown along like litter in the gutter.

Time past and time future

Allow but a little consciousness.

To be conscious is not to be in time

But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,

The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,

The moment in the draughty church at smokefall

Be remembered; involved with past and future.

Only through time time is conquered.

Being lost in the past or future ‘allows but a little consciousness’, allows but a little mindfulness.  However this is not to say that one cannot recall memories or make plans, but one does so not to escape the present, but to integrate or involve the past or future with the present.  This then requires an awareness of both the experience – in this case vivid memories Eliot frequently comes back to in the poem of a rose garden, or a village church – and an awareness of oneself, in the present moment. This integration leads, Eliot says, to a sense of time being conquered.

The main reason however for being in the present moment for Eliot, more important than the integration of past and future, is the possibility it offers for visionary or insightful experience, what he calls the timeless moment.  He evokes one such visionary experience early on in the poem.  He is walking through the gardens of an old country house (called Burnt Norton).  His whole experience of the garden seems to have been one of heightened awareness, which he associates with the innocence and freshness of childhood.  He has a sense of presence in the garden, and of being in intimate relationship with what he sees, as he walks through the roses; flowers, he says in a lovely line, that ‘have the look of flowers that are looked at’.  On reaching the drained fishponds he has a vision, a vision interestingly enough including a lotus flower.

Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,

And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,

And the lotus rose, quietly, quietly,

The surface glittered out of heart of light,

And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.

Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.

Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,

Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind

Cannot bear very much reality.

The poet has a momentary vision, a vision of beauty, gentleness and shimmering light, and a sense of interconnection with everything around him.  He re-calls the incident with an adult’s (and poet’s) sensibility, the evocation of the childhood experience suffused by ‘significances outside the range of childhood apprehension.

And then the moment passes with the cloud; he it seems, like ourselves, ‘cannot bear very much reality’.  We are commanded to leave the garden; ‘Go’.  There is a suggestion of failure on the part of human kind.  We cannot, but we should be able to bear reality.  (Perhaps this applies only to adults; are the children laughing at us, with our complex lives and frantic displacement activities?)  Even without visionary experience humankind can find staying in the present moment too intense. Afraid, we plumb for a safer, twilight existence, for something secure, known, albeit only half alive.

the enchainment of past and future

Woven in the weakness of the changing body,

Protects mankind from heaven and damnation

Which flesh cannot endure.

Included in the ‘enchainment of past and future’ is an enchainment to clock time, to planning every minute of one’s day, one’s experience squashed into tight boxes of allotted time. The extremes of heaven and hell are too big for such little boxes of experience. Receptivity to beauty, and the generation of a potentially insightful intensity, is available only outside of clock-time.

F. R. Leavis describes ‘a decided arrest’ when arriving at the line ‘human kind / Cannot bear very much reality’.  It precipitates him into a forthright critique of what he sees as Eliot’s contemptuous attitude towards all things ‘in time’, i.e. all people and their activities, including the creative process.   In this I think the eminent critic is misguided.  Eliot’s contempt is for people living unreal lives, engaged in wilful distraction, who are ‘wasting’ their ‘sad time’.  His exhortation is open to all, and refers to here and now.

Quick now, here, now, always-

Ridiculous the waste sad time

Stretching before and after.

 

THE STILL POINT

MOVING ON from time past and time future, what does Eliot have to say about thepresent moment?  Here we come to what is, quite rightly, one of the most well known passages in the poem.

At the still point of the turning world.  Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

But neither arrest nor movement.  And do not call it fixity,

Where past and future are gathered.  Neither movement from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline.  Except for the point, the still point,

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.

And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.

The inner freedom from the practical desire,

The release from action and suffering, release from the inner

And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded

By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving.

‘The still point of the turning world’.  This has connotations of a centre, of a stationary hub within a spinning wheel, a point of stillness at the heart of movement.  The still point is central, poised, balanced, and is also the locus of power.  Here, ‘past and future are gathered’, absorbed into the present.  The second crucial image is ‘the dance’ with its associations of beauty, control, elegance, power and harmony.  Dancing, like meditation, needs concentration but also fluidity, a blend of conscious control and a creative flowing and spontaneity.  ‘At the still point, there the dance is’ – the dance comes from that stillness.  Without it the beauty and poise of the dance would be impossible. ‘And there is only the dance’.  There is only the dance – there is only that which the dance signifies – as only this is of value, of importance.  Only that which comes from this creative and self-aware way of being is of any worth.  To translate this into Sangharakshita’s terminology, only that which comes from the creative mind, imbued with awareness, is of any value.

To understand why the still point, the dance, cannot be ‘placed in time’ we need to look at the next few lines, that state that the dance is a state of freedom from desire and compulsion.  Our experience of time is a product of our craving, our desires.  Time flies – it passes too quickly – when we are enjoying ourselves, when we want to stretch out an experience to last longer than it does.  On the other hand time drags along too slowly when we are bored, when we want an experience finished quicker than is actually happening.  Either way our experience of time is conditioned by our desires, either to hold onto an experience or push it away.  The still point then is timeless in that it has no relation to the future.  It is in the present moment, with no clinging nor rejecting, with no restless desire to be in another place or another time.  Dancing at the Still Point can only take place in the here and now.

The passage uses paradox, similar to that in the Buddhist wisdom texts of the Prajñaapaaramitaa.  The still point is ultimately a state unconstrained by limitations of time and space, so if we try to describe it using the language of time and space, it can only really be talked about negatively, in terms of what it is not.  So it is ‘neither from nor towards’, and ‘neither flesh nor fleshless’, personal or impersonal; none of these dualisms apply.  As already quoted, the subject matter of the Four Quartets ‘required a capacity … for bringing to expression in language what language doesn’t readily lend itself to’.

In this sense the notion of the still point resonates with that of emptiness, ‘suunyutaa, with the ‘open dimension of being’.  Eliot may or may not have had this level of profundity in mind when writing the poem, but that is perhaps unimportant.  There is as it were a ‘vertical alignment’ of mindfulness, and the openness and freedom this gives us, and the fluid and open nature of reality itself, the openness that is the true nature (or non-nature) of ourselves and of all things.  Dancing at the Still Point we dance in Emptiness, ‘surrounded / By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving’.

Eliot uses the language of the still point in a more poetic, image-based passage later on, which concludes

After the kingfisher’s wing

Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still

At the still point of the turning world.

 

The reference to the kingfisher’s wing and the tight rhythm and assonance of the proceeding section recalls, perhaps deliberately on Eliot’s part, a sonnet by Gerald Manley Hopkins, a sonnet that has relevance to the subject at hand.

As kingfisher’s catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;

As tumbled over rim in roundy wells

Stones ring: like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s

Bow strung finds tongue to sing out broad its name:

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

Deals out that being indoors each one dwells:

Selves – goes itself: myself it speaks and spells:

Crying ‘What I do is me: for that I came’.

What Hopkins is saying that has relevance to our consideration of the dance is that everything, poetically speaking, has a ‘nature’ which it cannot help but express.  A stone, hitting another as it tumbles in a river, rings; the electric-blue of a kingfisher’s wing catches the light like fire. And the self of the poet?  It ‘speaks and spells: / Crying ‘what I do is me, for that I came”.  The poet’s raison d’être is to communicate, to speak, spell, proclaim himself.  Likewise we too articulate ourselves, give expression through what we say and do to ourselves, to what is within; we give forth ‘that being indoors each one dwells’.

So, another element of dancing at the still point is self-expression, communication.  With this comes notions of integrity, self-awareness, honesty and truthfulness; seeking the purity and transparency of a stone’s ring.

FEET RISING AND FALLING

SO FAR all the quotes from the four Quartets have come from Burnt Norton.  In the later Quartets, which are somewhat more expansive, less philosophically dense, Eliot continues with the broad theme of time and our relationship with it, introducing other types of timethat we can experience.

Firstly there is natural time, the time of nature and the ‘living seasons’.  In the following passage, in a style reminiscent of Ted Hughes, Eliot evokes an ancient pagan marriage ceremony.  Again dancing is mentioned, but this time the connotations of the dance are very different from that seen so far.

Keeping time,

Keeping the rhythm in their dancing

As in their living in the living seasons

The time of the seasons and the constellations

The time of milking and the time of harvest

The time of the coupling of man and woman

And that of beasts. Feet rising and falling.

Eating and drinking. Dung and death.

Although the imagery here is fairly positive, Eliot’s response to the pastoral scene is ambivalent.  If we read the poem out loud the insistent rhythm, combined with the earthy language, expresses the claustrophobia and narrowness of living this way – hemmed in by the recurrent cycle of the seasons, and caught up in purely animal concerns.  Feet rise only to fall.  We eat, drink, procreate (like beasts), only to die and rot, even our decomposing bodies caught up in the never-ending, outsideless circle of nature.  Rhythms from the animal realm perhaps.

By contrast Eliot later in the poem uses the ocean as an image for what he calls a ‘ground-swell time’.  This is something primordial, pre-human, unconscious.  He compares it in this passage with the anxious hours spent by women waiting for the return of their fishermen husbands…

…under the oppression of the silent fog

The tolling bell

Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried

Ground swell, a time

Older than the time of chronometers, older

Than time counted by anxious worried women

Lying awake, calculating the future,

Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel

And piece together the past and the future,

And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning,

Clangs

The bell.

To use an image Eliot himself uses, our little lives, rushing around with our little plans and worries, are like waves on the ocean, rising and then falling.  We try in vain ‘to piece together the past and the future’.  Beneath us, within us, part of us, a ground-swell time rolls on unhurried, the chronology of birth and death.  And it’s this time that clangs the bell.

Thirdly there is the aspect of time as an ongoing continual process.

In my beginning is my end.  In succession

Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,

Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place

Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.

Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,

Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth

Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,

Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.

‘In my beginning is my end’; ends and beginnings Eliot is saying are just our inventions, arbitrary points within a continual process.  If we insist upon positing a beginning then we cannot avoid an end.  There are no real divisions of time, just a constant succession of events, and our splitting up of time into before and after, beginnings and ends, although convenient, is not to be taken too literally, not to be believed in too firmly.  The process of decay and renewal continues seamlessly.  Like the steps of the rustic dancer ‘Houses rise and fall’; the ‘Bone of man and beast’ becomes ‘cornstalk and leaf’.

Beginnings and ends are as arbitrary as divisions as between humus and plant, and the human tendency to ‘nail down’ the flow of perceptions endemic.  Eliot’s alternative is expressed in a superb four lines of text, evoking an almost mystical sympathy and resonance with a fluid world.

Dawn points, and another day

Prepares for heat and silence.  Out at sea the dawn wind

Wrinkles and slides.  I am here,

Or there, or elsewhere.  In my beginning.

 

MOVING IN MEASURE

WITHIN THE LONG POEM is a singular and quite extraordinary passage, its other-worldly, visionary status matched only perhaps by the fleeting vision in the rose garden.  Leavis calls it ‘Dantesque in its measured gravity and weight’, yet ‘at the same time unmistakably Eliot the great poet – as unquestionably major here as anywhere in hisoeuvre’.

In it Eliot conjures up a sort of underworld purgatorial meeting, between himself (as the first-person narrator) and an alter ego, what he calls a ‘familiar compound ghost’, meeting in an ill-defined twilight world of deserted streets, during an air raid before dawn.  The ghostly figure is in part a ‘ghost of poet-future’, talking to poet-present. ‘The text [however], with its insistent subtlety, forbids simple identification; the alter ego is ‘both one and many’ – A familiar compound ghost / Both intimate and unidentifiable.

The mysterious figures discloses to him the ‘gifts reserved’ for his old age, in order to ‘set a crown’ upon his ‘lifetime’s effort’; a lifetime’s effort to communicate his ideas, ‘to purify the dialect of the tribe’.  Once more the image of the dance reoccurs, without which all is bleak.

The narrator meets a figure

walking, loitering and hurried

As if blown towards me like the metal leaves

Before the urban dawn wind unresisting

A figure

Both intimate and unidentifiable.

… Too strange to each other for misunderstanding,

In concord at this intersection time

Of meeting nowhere, no before and after,

We trod the pavement in a dead patrol.

They converse, culminating in the visitor’s revelations of the gifts of old age, gifts that are harsh indeed;

First, the cold friction of expiring sense

… Second, the conscious impotence of rage

At human folly

… And last, the rending pain of re-enactment

Of all that you have done, and been

He concludes

From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit

Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire

Where you must move in measure, like a dancer.

‘Our future poetry’, writes literary critic G. Wilson Knight ‘must see our city streets tipped with that Pentecostal flame, but those cities will for long be areas heavy with suffering, with darkness, illusion and death.  These themselves must pulse with life; through these we must burn our way, in spite of these know our freedom, because of these create our hope’.  Written ten years before (but read and appreciated by Eliot) Little Gidding, indeed the whole of the Four Quartets, expresses Wilson Knight’s dream, in a war-torn world ‘heavy with suffering’.

In an earlier draft of this passage Eliot makes explicit what is only hinted at in adjoining sections of the poem, that is an awareness of one’s life within the context of death andrebirth, ideas he imbibed through studying Buddhist and Hindu texts. Instead of the ‘gifts reserved for age’ the ghost had originally proclaimed insights to the poet designed to inculcate detachment from those who are most near (and most hated) in this life.

So, as you circumscribe this dreary round,

Shall your life pass from you, with all you hated

And all you loved, the future and the past

United to another past, another future,

(After many seas and after many lands)

The dead and the unborn, who shall be nearer

Than the voices and the faces that were most near.

Eliot however modifies such a non-Christian vision, with the ghost immediately qualifying what he says with the following emphasis on this life.

This is the final gift accorded

One soil, one past, one future, in one place.

Nor shall the eternal thereby be remoter

But nearer; seek or seek not, it is here.

Now, the last love on earth.

The rest is grace.

Whatever Eliot’s reasons for subsequently editing out such passages it is clear that he was strongly influenced by traditional Buddhist and Hindu doctrines, an influence explicit in earlier drafts and implicit in the final version. References to rebirth (whether understood literally or metaphorically) remain, but without the central ghost speech they lose much of their specific meaning.  ‘See now they vanish / The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved them / To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern’.  Eliot links such an enlarged context for one’s life, and those of others, into a dharmic framework – as part of a movement towards liberation.  In the section immediately following that of the ‘compound ghost’ he states ‘This is the use of memory: / For liberation – not less of love but expanding / Of love beyond desire, and so liberation / From the future as well as the past’.

Returning to the concluding lines of the ghost’s speech we have the imagery of a ‘refining fire’.  Eliot uses the imagery of fire many times in the poem, especially in Little Gidding.  It seems to be a symbol of spiritual insight, especially that gained through the recognition of suffering and death. The ghost, the ‘dead master’, reveals here another dimension to the dance, (a point made more clearly in the original version of his speech); to ‘move in measure like a dancer’ we must acknowledge the ubiquity of suffering and of death. ‘Despair’, Kierkegaard says, ’ is the secret malady from which all suffer. …The sole difference between men is that some men know from what it is they suffer, whilst others do not’.

HINTS AND GUESSES

FINALLY, and most importantly, there is the theme of spiritual practice itself.  How does one place oneself ‘at the still point of the turning world’?

Firstly, Eliot says, we must turn within, in prayer and meditation.  In contrast to poets such as Hopkins for whom revelation is immanent in the sacramental, rapturous beauty of the world around him, Eliot’s spiritual journey is one of transcendence and renunciation.   ‘I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope..’ So whilst Hopkins can say

I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes

Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour

for Eliot, by contrast, you have to ‘put off / Sense and notion’.  For him the inner journey requires a radical letting go of the world of the senses and sense experience. ‘You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy’.

Descend lower, descend only

Into the world of perpetual solitude…

Desiccation of the world of  sense,

Evacuation of the world of fancy,

Inoperancy of the world of spirit

The nature of such prayer Eliot mentions in a later more ambiguous passage.  As in other passages he uses the imagery of the Pentecost, in this case as a symbol for a communication transcending birth and death.

 

… prayer is more

Than an order of words, the conscious occupation

Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

And what the dead had no speech for, when living,

They can tell you, being dead: the communication

Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.

Here, the intersection of the timeless moment

Is England and nowhere.  Never and always.

It is difficult to know quite how to take what is said here, to the idea that one is open in meditation to a communication ‘tongued with fire beyond the language of the living’.  Eliot as a Christian will include a literal meaning to the descent of the Holy Spirit intimated by the tongues of fire, a sense of the grace mentioned at other points of the poem.  This section immediately precedes the ghost scene, with its references to ’ the dead and unborn’ being ‘nearer than the faces that were most near’.  Hence a literal interpretation is possible; that in prayer (and meditation) the dead can communicate to you.  Even outside a Christian or literal context however the words still retain a poetic and evocative power, a broad canvas of death and birth within which one creates oneself in meditation.  Furthermore this state, this ‘intersection of the timeless moment’, is available here and now, although the here and now are thereby transcended.

We now come to the section quoted at the start of this paper, which concludes as follows:

Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.

The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,

The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy

Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony

Of death and birth.

Eliot indicates here a state of receptivity, an openness without expectation, and crucially a state of being that includes a profound recognition of suffering, of death and birth.  The fundamental acknowledgement of the facts of birth and death, an openness to the mystery of our life and all life, itself brings illumination, freedom, release.  The darkness (of suffering and not-knowing) becomes the light, becomes that which illuminates our way, and informs our actions, our dancing.  And in this state we can receive the beauty of the timeless moment, symbolised for Eliot by childhood memories, and his vision in the rose garden at Burnt Norton.  Whilst for the older Wordsworth the beauty and transcendent power of nature takes

…a sober colouring from an eye

That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality

Eliot goes one step further.  For him such visionary and timeless experiences associated with childhood, the ‘laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy’, are not only retained in maturity, but require and point to ‘the agony / Of death and birth’.

In the following passage Eliot is at his most explicit regarding the spiritual path, and what he says has much relevance to all practitioners.  He first talks of full Awakening, the apprehension of ‘The point of intersection of the timeless / With time’ as the ‘occupation for the saint’, requiring ‘a lifetime’s death in love, / Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender’.  However such experiences are not for the saint alone; the whole thrust of the poem concerns more everyday insights, revelations, and moments out of time that are accessible to all.

For most of us, there is only the unattended

Moment, the moment in and out of time,

The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,

The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning

Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply

That it is not heard at all, but you are the music

While the music lasts.  These are only hints and guesses,

Hints followed by guesses; and the rest

Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.

The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.

One of the most radical lines in the whole poem, especially for a poem written by a Christian poet, is ‘The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation’.  Incarnation here deliberately has a capital ‘I’, and refers, in Christian theology to the ‘Word becoming flesh’, the Divine assuming human form in the person of Jesus.  He for Christians represents the abstract Truth (of God) made actual in bodily form, and living amongst us.  What Eliot is saying that has relevance in a Buddhist context, is that our insights and understandings, our moments of vision and absorption, these ‘hints and guesses’, even if only ‘half understood’, these are for us Truth Incarnate.  Truth or Insight he seems to be saying is not some abstract notion, existing on some rarefied plane, but consists of the innumerable small personal insights, intuitions, and revelations that we all have.  Hence we should take them seriously, reflect on them, reverence them even, because they are for us Truth manifest in our life…  And they inform the practice that follows, the ‘prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action’.

CONCLUSION: AND ALL SHALL BE WELL

THERE IS MUCH that could be said about the poem as ‘music’, as a quartet.  According to Leavis, for whom the musical analogy ‘has a marked felicity’, it gives Eliot licence to ‘defy the criteria we implicitly expect to be observed in… all forms of written English’.  In a musical piece, as in this poem, there are often various melodies and themes which are repeated in various guises throughout, the sections often being linked more closely to the original themes than to an unfolding progression throughout the work.  The themes are brought together in the final movement in a harmonious conclusion.  Eliot does something similar in his concluding passage, weaving together many of the previous themes from the poem;

.   The ability or otherwise of words to adequately describe spiritual experience.  There are many passages in the work where Eliot steps out from behind the text, revealing his struggles to articulate his vision.

·         The co-existence, or the arbitrariness of ends and beginnings

·         The integration of our history into the present moment, giving it depth and significance

·         A state of insight that transcends birth and death, or at least annuls the fear of birth and death; an insight that places the mystery of our life in their context

·         And a recognition that such insight doesn’t occur on some mystical plane, but is accessible here and now, as ‘hints and guesses’.

He also brings together a number of images that are used many times throughout the poem; the yew tree with its associations of graveyards, and hence paganism and death:fire, a symbol for spiritual illumination and transformation, especially through the recognition of suffering: and the rose, symbol of love and beauty.  In this final section Eliot makes his own Holy Trinity, equating the three of them.

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time

Quick now, here, now, always –

A condition of complete simplicity

(Costing not less than everything)

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.

________________

BY DHARMACHARI VARAGHO.SA

The Literary Rogue Returns!

Smoke?

The Literary Rogue Magazine
The Literary Rogue

Because you’re going to have to wait just a few more days for the 2nd

Grand Online Issue Of “THE LITERARY ROGUE”

So in the meantime light up, have a drink and check out our 1st Issue.

www.theliteraryrogue.com

The Raven: An All Hallows Eve Tribute To Edgar Allan Poe At The UAG, Albany NY

MONDAY, OCTOBER 31st ~ Halloween

The Upstate Artists Guild

247 Lark Street

Albany, NY

100 THOUSAND POETS FOR CHANGE …TODAY!

Saturday, September 24 · 11:30am 11:30pm


This event will take place in many cities, at the same time and date, outdoors when possible, and of course it will be televised. The main website is: http://www.100tpc.org

Poets For Change

The first order of change is for poets, writers, artists, anybody, to actually get together to create and perform, educate and demonstrate, simultaneously, with other communities around the world. This will change how we see our local community and the global community. We have all become incredibly alienated in recent years. We hardly know our neighbors down the street let alone our creative allies who live and share our concerns in other countries. We need to feel this kind of global solidarity. I think it will be empowering.

And of course there is the political/social change that many of us are talking about these days. There is trouble in the world. Wars, ecocide, the lack of affordable medical care, racism, the list goes on.

It appears that transformation towards a more sustainable world is a major concern and could be a global guiding principle for this event. Peace also seems to be a common cause. War is not sustainable. There is an increasing sense that we need to move forward and stop moving backwards. But I am trying not to be dogmatic. I am hoping that together we can develop our ideas of the “change/transformation” we are looking for as a group, and that each community group will decide their own specific area of focus for change for their particular event.

100 THOUSAND POETS FOR CHANGE …TODAY!

The Rain Poets

The Rain Poets

THE RAIN POETS

It seems that all the rain poets

Are weeping again tonight,

In words, that rain down

In buckets.

The living, once more pretending

To be the dead, the waiting and

Wanting of it, just above their heads

Like false prophets.

The art of

Voices & rants

As all of the dark clouds gather

And they ask, demand

Why ME?

Why US?

Why?

Why?

Why?

As their world is ending once again

As their world is in pain in the

Black black black abyss of the DARK DARK NIGHT

of Apocalypse again and again

And of themselves.

In a world that is a mess

In a world that suffers war

And in a world that is slowly dying, starving and well

“What-ever”

As they read their poetry brought to life by an attitude

That attempts living where shock value incurs some glimmer of truth at all.

Because?

The rain poets are not reading a

poem or writing a poem about that,

The rain poets are too busy writing

What their own selfish little lives are all about,

The whining & the bitching and the

ME ME ME LOOK AT ME I’m angry

Or I’m FAT, life is so unfair & no one wants to

Have sex & I can’t find the right pair of pants

That fit!

Yes, the rain poets are all weeping again

Up unto the masses & unto the general consensus,

Rhyme it : And keep the tragic flowing,

Slam It : And shock again whats been shocked so many times before

Oh ever so popular (as usual)

Oh, ever so the same old song

And oh ever so amusing

So all about an attitude and

All their poems that never change

Never … Change At All.

Or even acknowledge

That somewhere out there

In a real world where there are

No poetry slams or malls that there is

A desolate place where a child is dying alone of starvation,

That somewhere out there

In the real world there is a killer

Who really kills people with guns & without words

And who doesn’t give two shits about your attitude or your poetry

Or your wonderful comfortable happy thoughts ideas about

Peace or what’s right & wrong with your life, your relationships

Or what you had for dinner as he kills another person, another human being

For as little as

A thrill.

Yes, tonight as in every night somewhere

The rain poets are performing & whining once again about

The “I” & the “My” & the “Me” & “Why” & Are The

Who who are saying that I AM THE SHIT

When in the real world, and not in their own egotistical minds

Their convictions and words  are merely artificial

False anger, false masks & false words

That hide the real fear of the real world that they

fear the most.

But some advice?

You cannot save the world with a poem

But it is far better to try than to not try at all

And if those words are your only weapons?

Make them “REAL”

_________________

R.M. Engelhardt 2011